Friday, May 16, 2014

Final Reflection

When the class first started, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Technology is such a broad area of study that I couldn’t possibly have determined what we’d be studying before the class started. In the end it turned out to be a great set of resources.

Beyond the many and varied resources we discussed in class, I was also very grateful for the insights of my classmates. When we discussed a given technology or tool, I always appreciated the chance for everyone to share their own unique opinions and observations. While I didn’t necessarily agree with everybody on every topic, I still found that being exposed to so many opinions made me think more deeply about the subject of discussion, allowing me to view the matter from many different perspectives.

A few of the resources we discussed stood out especially as valuable assets. Google Drive, with which I was familiar before the class started, is an incredibly useful tool. Its capacity to allow for collaboration and its functionality as a Microsoft Office-like suite of applications that use cloud computing to allow multiple people to access the same documents makes it a powerful tool for collaborating on projects and presentations, as well as a host of other creations.

Another tool I plan to make extensive use of is Padlet. This is somewhat similar to Google Drive, in that they are both cloud-based collaborative platforms, but where Drive is largely oriented toward the creation of presentable final products, Padlet stands out as an excellent site for brainstorming and organizing ideas collaboratively. It creates a “wall” that can be shared with collaborators, allowing people to post links, embed videos and other multimedia elements, and create text in a setting that lets them organize ideas quickly and easily.

Of course, it’s important to continue growing as an educator even after this class. To that end, I think that I will do my best to keep seeking out both new resources and many different opinions on those resources, so I can constantly be aware of new technologies that may aid my practice as an educator.

Video Reflection

This week’s video project assignment was a really enlightening experience for me. Initially, I was dreading this assignment, because unlike many of the group-based assignments we’ve undertaken in class, this one was very much dependent upon my group finding some way to line up all of our schedules to get together and get to work. While this did turn out to be something of an obstacle, I found that this assignment also had considerable benefits for us.

First, I was struck by the very different skill set required for making a video. Compared to writing an essay, shooting a video requires much more of a visual sensibility on the part of the cameraman and a physical engagement by the actors. This makes video presentations a valuable tool for students who may be less inclined toward writing as a method of expressing their knowledge and may find a more visual or kinesthetic approach more effective.

As we kept shooting, I also very much enjoyed the extra sense of camaraderie that this project caused. Where past collaborative efforts had consisted largely of each group member working in isolation on separate parts of a greater whole, this project really necessitated all of us coming together to pool ideas, which was a much more collaborative experience.

In a classroom setting, one thing in particular stood out about this video project: it has a built-in control for distribution of labor. Where many group projects run the risk of one student doing the lion’s share of the work and the others coasting, in this case you have a video record of how much each student is contributing. With the additional requirement that each student do their own editing and provide their own finished product, the equitable division of labor is further ensured.

Of course, this is not to say that video projects are without flaws. First, while our group had easy access to a video camera, that may not necessarily be true for every group of students. While smart devices are becoming ever more common, there are still many people without them, which can present a bit of a technological barrier to access. Furthermore, while the performance and sharing aspects of the video can make them very effective, for particularly camera-shy students this may be asking too much. Lastly, having been in classes myself with video projects, there is still one problem shared with other presentations: often students will largely ignore other groups’ projects, either out of boredom or to focus more on their own work. All that being said, videos are still an incredible asset, and the advent of technologies like iMovie make this an ever more accessible tool to bring into the classroom.